Times have changed greatly in the last 30 years in regard to the world of high school sports, especially here in the Tri-Valley.
When I was hired by the Tri-Valley Herald in 1985, we had five, full-time prep sports reporters to cover the East Bay Athletic League.
We covered all four football games (there were eight teams in the league then), all four basketball games, and all four baseball games during the league season.
We kept full stats for all three of those sports, as well as soccer, and posted league and area leaders in track and swimming.
There was a Tri-Valley Herald and a Valley Times, which meant there was competition. The two papers fought to get the better coverage of the league, prompting a win for local sports.
It was a glorious time to play high school sports, with each Saturday paper in the Herald including two wide open pages for local sports news.
There were prep banquets at the end of the season to celebrate the accomplish the success of our athletes. At the Herald, the banquet had grown to around 500 people total for the athletes and their families.
But as newspapers began to swirl the drain, it became about condensing and cancellation. By the time I left the daily newspaper industry for good, the Herald and the Times had merged, I was the lone prep sports reporter, and local coverage was pretty much eliminated.
Instead of coverage of just the EBAL, local readers were forced to read about prep sports from San Jose to Antioch, and that was most of the coverage. Community sports basically meant, and still pretty much means, nothing to the daily papers.
The lack of prep sports coverage is the reason I started to write for the Pleasanton Weekly. I just wanted to at least give the Amador Valley and Foothill athletes at least a modicum of coverage, which is certainly better than nothing.
At the beginning of the season, I was grateful the Pleasanton Weekly brass decided to create the Tri-Valley Prep Playbook, allowing me to branch out and cover the entire EBAL again.
It has been a great feeling being able to tune into the entire league. Talking with some of the coaches that are still around has been great as we reminisce about the old days, and at the same time getting the coverage to this generation of players and coaches is enjoyable.
Every so often something comes along that spark’s memories of my time at the Herald and that happened last week with the release of the 2022 Livermore-Granada Boosters Olympian Award that honors both male and female scholar athletes.
The Boosters were started by former students and civic-minded businessmen to foster and stimulate scholarship and athletics in the community high school. This group felt that good students, active in athletics, were a nucleus of future good citizens, with qualities of leadership, sportsmanship, and competitive spirit.
The Olympian Award was started in 1958 to honor a male scholar athlete from Livermore High. In 1966, the award was expanded to include the newly opened Granada High.
Since 1979, the award rewards one male and one female athlete from each school with the Olympian Award.
This year the Boosters have selected 12 finalists. Four winners will receive a $2,500 scholarship, and eight finalists will receive a $750 scholarship. All 12 finalists receive an Olympian Finalist Award Plaque.
The winners were announced Monday night and will be mentioned in next week’s Playbook.
Here are this year’s finalists:
Abigail Herscu: Abigail is a senior at Granada with a weighted GPA of 3.71. Abigail participated four years in swimming, receiving two varsity letters. Abigail was All-EBAL and competed at NCS, and State, earning her All-American status in her 100M breast-stroke, 200 IM and relay event. With her times and standings, Abigail, as a senior in high school, was invited to compete in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Abigail will continue her swimming career while attending UC Berkeley while she studies Business.
Nayeli Tia: Nayeli is a senior at Granada with a weighted GPA of 3.65.Nayeli participated four years in volleyball, earning four varsity letters. She served as team captain, received the coach’s MVP award, Granada Pride Award, and East Bay All-League 1st Team. In her spare time, Nayeli supported the GHS Shooting Stars and volunteering for youth Little League. Nayeli will be playing volleyball at San Jose State where she plans to study Business Marketing.
Makayla Winchell: Makayla is a senior at Granada with a weighted GPA of 4.02. Makayla participated four years in softball, one year in basketball, and one year in volleyball, earning four varsity letters. In softball, Makayla earned MVP, Granada Varsity Offensive Player of the Year, All East Bay Athletic League (EBAL) First Team, West Coast Preps Cal-Hi Sports All Bay Area First Team, and Mercury News Bay Area High School Softball Top 40 Player in California. Makayla also dedicated her time to Granada and the community, serving as Treasurer for Young Life and volunteering at the Taylor Family Foundation. Makayla will be playing softball at the University of Notre Dame while studying Business
Izabella Guidry: Izabella is a Livermore senior with a weighted GPA of 4.21. She earned eight varsity letters in Water Polo and Swimming. Her accomplishments include All-EBAL Honorable Mention in water polo in 2020 and 2021 and helped her team advance to NCS. Izabella’s team awards include being named team captain her junior and senior year, varsity water polo Best Defensive Player in 2021, and was named Most Valuable Player on her team in 2021. She received the Livermore-Granada Booster team award in 2020. Her academic awards include Principals Honor Roll, and she earned Academic Letters and her Block letter. She is involved in several school activities, including the Engineering Club and Nature Club and has volunteered 800 hours with summer youth swim programs. Izabella will be attending University of Vermont and major in Environmental Studies.
Britany Pettit: Britany is a Livermore senior with a weighted GPA of 4.12. She received eight varsity letters in water polo and swimming. Britany has served as team captain (3 years) in water polo and team captain in swimming her senior year. In water polo she received All-EBAL Honorable Mention, All-EBAL Second Team and was selected to the All-EBAL First Team her senior year. Her team honors include receiving MVP in water polo her sophomore and senior years. Britany set a team record for scoring the most career goals in water polo and received the Livermore Granada Booster team award in 2021. Her academic honors include Principals Honor Roll and NCS Scholar athlete awards. She serves as Senior Class Vice-President and is involved in ASB Leadership. Britany plans to attend a four-year college and major in Communications.
Taylor Rodriguez: Taylor is a Livermore senior with a weighted GPA of 3.65. She has received four varsity letters in softball. Taylor is among the top pitchers in the NCS and has helped her team to several successful seasons as one of the top ranked softball teams in NCS. Her accomplishments include being selected to the First Team All-EBAL in softball. Taylor’s team awards include Varsity team captain and Best Defensive Player of the Year. She set a team pitching record with 18 strikeouts in one game. She has received the West Coast Preps Female Athlete of the Week, Cal-Hi Sports Player of the Week and was selected to the San Francisco Chronicle’s All-Metro Team in 2021. Her academic awards include Principals Honor Roll and NCS Scholar Athlete. Taylor will be attending Dominican University in California where she will continue her softball career while studying Nursing.
Kevin Gad: Kevin is a senior at Granada with a weighted GPA of 4.44. At Granada, Kevin played four years of basketball and two years of volleyball, earning five varsity letters. Kevin served as team captain and was selected for Cal-Hi Sports Athlete of the Week, West Coast Athlete of the Month, West Coast Athlete of the Year, and All EBAL First Team. In his spare time, Kevin enjoys spending time with his family, coaching youth basketball, and volunteering his time at his church. Kevin will be playing basketball at Saint Mary’s College while he studies Biology or Pre-Pharmacy.
Jaques Grove: Jacques is a senior at Granada with a weighted GPA of 4.25. Jacques competed in three years of swimming earning him three varsity letters. He has competed in the NCS, EBAL, and USA Swimming Summer Junior Nationals. He is currently ranked 37th fastest swimmer in the country in the 200 backstroke, and ranked the 38th fastest in the country in the 200 butterfly. When not swimming or studying, Jacques participated in the Chess Club and supported the Hemophilia Foundation of Northern California. Jacques will be attending Cornell University where he will continue his swimming career while studying Biology or Computer Science.
Nathan Lloyd: Nathan is a senior at Granada with a weighted GPA of 3.73. Nathan participated in four years of wrestling and four years of football earning him seven varsity letters. In football, Nathan was selected All League 2nd team for defensive linemen. In wrestling, Nathan placed 2nd at the EBAL for individual wrestling, 1st place for team wrestling, and 6th place at NCS for individual wrestling. Nathan will be attending Boise State University where he will continue to compete in wrestling and study Construction Management.
Tim Cowan: Tim is a Livermore senior with a weighted GPA 4.31. He earned four varsity letters in wrestling. Tim is one of the top wrestlers in the state, with a 36-3 win/loss record this past season and he compiled a career 106-24 record. He is a two-time NCS champion and EBAL champion in his weight division and was ranked 5th in California. He has competed at state and national tournaments placing fourth at the USAW National Showcase All-American tournament and placing first at the USAW Western States tournament. His team awards include All-EBAL First Team, in 2020 and 2022 and varsity team captain. His academic awards include Principals Honor and receiving Academic Excellence in Writing and Academic Letter Recipient. Tim will continue his wrestling career at Cal Baptist University and major in Business Marketing.
Xavier Gutierrez: Xavier is a Livermore senior with a weighted GPA of 4.10. He has four varsity letters in football, baseball, and track. In football he was named All-EBAL First Team as a Defensive Back. His team awards in football include Most Valuable Defensive Player, team captain, and he helped his football team qualify to the NCS playoffs. In track and field, Xavier helped his team qualify for the NCS meet in the 4x100 relay. His academic awards include Principals Honor Roll all four years. Xavier will continue his football career at Santa Barbara Community College and study Environmental Engineering.
Jack Martin: Jack is a Livermore senior with a weighted GPA of 4.05. He earned six varsity letters in football, track, and golf. In football he helped his team to the NCS playoffs and was selected All-EBAL Second Team at Quarterback. In track he placed 5th in the EBAL Championships for the 300M hurdles. Jack’s team awards include team captain and Co-Offensive Player of the Year. His academic award includes Honor Roll, Principals Honor Roll, Academic Letter, and AP Scholar Award. Jack plans to attend a four-year university and major in Business.